SOMETHING ROTTEN! Is Sweeter Than A Rose By Any Other Name

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Something Rotten plays the Fabulous Fox Theatre Feb 7-19. Image Credit: The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Hark! What is this vision which dances before me? Is it Drama personified, grounding us with her stories of maidens, men and honored beasts? Nay! ‘tis Brother Comedy in his smiling mask of gold, sustained by the richness of my laughter. SOMETHING ROTTEN! ‘tis a rose by another name, but sweeter than the forbidden fruit of Eden, for the gods of jests and conspiracies have transported my soul upon the stage of the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and given voice to a belief most fundamental to my divine spirit: “God, I Hate Shakespeare!”

Shakespeare was a talentless hack whose true claim to fame is being Sir Francis Bacon’s proxy, which allowed the man named for delicious breakfast meat to keep his head attached to his neck whenever he produced a scintillating theatrical tale based on the intrigues of the Royal Court. Iambic pentameter is more ridiculous than Donald Trump’s cabinet. The only think Billy Shakes probably wrote on his own was his epitaph, which sounds more like a pirate ditty than a final sonnet from a much-adored wordsmith.  I was delighted—nay, enraptured!—to see Shakespeare play the villain’s role in SOMETHING ROTTEN!

Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell have created a show that is both classic musical theatre and a farcical history of the same. The cast is incredible, featuring St. Louis Muny Opera Theatre favorite Rob McClure as playwright Nick Bottom, his beautiful and talented “real life” wife Maggie Lakis as Bea Bottom, and his on-stage brother Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom. The Bottom Brothers soon find themselves at odds over Shakespeare, with Nick wanting to run Shakespeare into ruin and take his place as the top of the theatrical pecking order while Nigel secretly worships him like the Renaissance Rock Star that he is. The Bard himself is played by Original RENT cast member Adam Pascal with a level of confidence and showmanship that reminded me of David Bowie or Freddie Mercury at times. Nick employees a scam soothsayer—Thomas Nostradamus, played by the hilarious Blake Hammond—to predict Shakespeare’s every move. Nigel, meanwhile, finds himself truly straw-crossed when he falls for the virginal Puritan Portia, played by the lovely Autumn Hurlbert, much to the dismay of her father, the not-so-ambiguous Brother Jeremiah, played by Scott Cote, who drew bigger laughs with just expressions and gestures than he did with his lines, which were pretty funny too.

The sets and costumes are impressive, especially the GAME OF THRONES collar on Shakespeare’s jacket. The dance numbers are more for laughs than demonstrating the chorus’ prowess, though still more than acceptable, and none were funnier than the tap dance battle between Shakespeare and Nick Bottom. References to dozens of other musicals are peppered throughout the performance, providing a kind of verbal “Easter Egg” hunt to catch them all.  The songs are among the more memorable I’ve heard in a relatively new Broadway show for quite some time, particularly “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” “A Musical,” “Right Hand Man,” “The Black Death,” and “Will Power.” Director Casey Nicholaw of THE BOOK OF MORMON fame orchestrates a perfect blend of musical theatre conventions, jokes that almost never fall flat, and an outstanding cast that projects tangible emotions ranging from petty jealousy to young love.  

SOMETHING ROTTEN! is the freshest Broadway Tour show I’ve seen in ages. Whether you’re a Bacon man like me or one of the cultish multitudes who believe in William Shakespeare like a child believes in Santa Claus, I think everyone will find a reason to love this show. See for yourself why the show’s ten Tony Award nominations were so richly deserved.

SOMETHING ROTTEN! runs from February 7 through February 19 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. Please visit www.FabulousFox.com for ticket information or check out www.rottenbroadway.com to find out when this gem will be coming to your hometown theatre.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0